Are Whole Grains Good or Bad? - THE FIT MUM FORMULA

Are Whole Grains Good or Bad?

grains good or bad

It’s so hard to know what’s healthy with so much conflicting information around. Are grains good or bad? Should I go gluten free? Are bread and pasta fattening?

 

So are wholegrains an important part of our health or are they worth the demonisation they have been receiving of late?

 


To judge, we have to do two things; We have to look at the facts rather than the opinions, and we have to consider our own body and health goals.

 

The most commonly consumed grains are wheat, rice and corn, and oats are pretty popular too.

 

Every staples like bread and pasta, breakfast cereals, and snacks likely contain some sort of grain, so since most people eat so much of them it’s probably a good idea to know whether they’re actually healthy or not.

 

Most people agree whole grains are more nutritious than refined – whole grain bread, rice and cereals being better than white bread and rice pops for breakfast.

 

But some people, the Paleo diet community in particular, insist that grains of any kind aren’t healthy for anyone, so let’s take a look at the facts:

 

Pros

  • Wholegrains provide fibre, which slows down digestion, aids the movement and elimination of waste products from the colon, and in beneficial to cardiovascular health.
  • Grains are a source of B Vitamins, zinc, potassium, magnesium and iron amongst other nutrients.
  • Grains have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and other health problems.
  • They are a good source of carbohydrate energy, and we need some carbs in our diet. They are especially helpful post-exercise for quick muscle recovery.

 

Cons

  • Processed grains are stripped of much of their beneficial nutrients.
  • Processed grains are especially quickly digested and absorbed, over time over stimulating the production of insulin, which can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
  • Agriculture and the widespread consumption of grains is a relatively new idea in terms of human existence – Neolithic man would not have consumed grains in the same, processed way we do today.
  • Grains contain lectins which bind to insulin receptors, possibly leading to insulin resistance and therefore diabetes.
  • Many grains contain gluten, a glue-like substance not tolerated well by the human gut. Both coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity are on the rise.
  • Phytates and lectins are a type of ‘anti-nutrient’ found in grains, and inhibit nutrient absorption.
  • They are high in carbohydrates, which in some people can be a hindrance when it comes to fat loss as they’re easy to over eat.

 

Grain Alternatives

Let’s not forget that absolutely all the various nutrients found in grains can be found elsewhere, if you so choose; namely plant foods such as legumes, nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables, and even animal products.

Quinoa, often mistaken for being a grain, is in fact a seed, and a complete protein one at that (so great for vegetarians). Quinoa can be used instead of rice or couscous, or ground into flour and used in other ‘flour’ products like baked goods.

Buckwheat is another pseudograin which isn’t really a grain, but can be prepared and eaten like one.

Sprouted grains (grains soaked in water overnight to ‘sprout’), contrarily, are extremely digestible. They retain their natural enzymes needed to break them down in the gut, encourage the growth of ‘good’ bacteria (important for immunity and hut health), and retain many of the nutrients that would otherwise be lost in cooking and processing. Sprouting grains is a very effective way of getting the benefits since they become more bioavailable (easier to absorb), whilst reducing the possible negative effects of gluten, phytates and lectins.

 

Try this: Jamie Oliver’s High Protein Gluten Free Bread

 

But…

And this is a big but. Many people eat grains such as bread every day and feel just fine. Would they feel better if they cut them out? Perhaps. But for their personal requirements, what they need to be, do and feel on a day to day basis, grains are causing them no obvious problems.

If you think you might benefit from cutting grains from your diet then this includes pasta, bread, pastries, desserts, rolls, crackers, wholegrains, and anything made from or including wheat, barley, oats, rice, rye, millet, and corn. These lists are not exhaustive but there are too many types to list here.

 

I’d be interested on what you think, whether you eat grains or not, how you feel, and how you feel if you don’t eat them for a few weeks; post your thoughts and comments below.

 

 

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